Friday, January 6, 2012


It might be easy to forget that I just spent 4 months in India, if I spent some time here in Seville. Life here is very comfortable, at least for us tourists.  Living in comfort lulls me into the feeling that everyone is living as comfortably as I am...

In the streets or on sidewalks of Seville there are no cows, goats, stray dogs, or trash. We can walk around the city without a cacophony of car horns constantly assaulting us.  I haven't smelled urine or burning trash once.  At the end of the day I can blow my nose and what comes out isn't black. People are well-dressed and seem to have places to go. There aren't large numbers of people sleeping in the bus station, the train station, or out on the sidewalk. Everyone is fully clothed.  It would be easy to forget the millions in India who are fighting to survive except...

Except for the Mehndi still on my hands that reminds me of my last days in India.  Except for the man we've seen sleeping on the same bench over the last few days. Or the man checking all the pay phones for change. Or the man eating from the dumpster in front of our hotel. Or the woman wearing the plastic bag going through the Burger King dumpsters.   There are people struggling in Spain, too, and when I see them I think of the countless, yes there are so many they are countless, people struggling in India who were so much a part of the landscape, so normal to see that they were almost forgettable. What I mean is that with a few exceptions, I couldn't tell you about individual poor people  I saw in India as I was traveling because they were everywhere. Everywhere.  The people I met and worked with I will remember, of course, and have told and will continue to tell their stories (there's still so many to tell) but I don't remember too many specific  people I simply saw like I remember specific people struggling here.  In Seville the poor seem to be the exception rather than the rule. In India, the poor seem to be the rule rather than the exception.

It would be easy to forget the poor of India and sink into the comfort of Spain.  But I will not. I cannot. If I do, my time away from home will have been worthless. I'm glad I'll be headed to Palestine soon, so that I'll be, I imagine, out of my comfort zone again. When I am comfortable, it is so easy to fall back into patterns that don't do much to benefit anyone but myself (and even that is a questionable statement if I believe that my well-being is tied into the well-being of the rest of the world). And so, in a few days, I'll opt again to leave the easy, to enter what will put me at dis-ease, so that I remember the dis-ease of so many Indians and so many others and try to break my selfish personal patterns permanently, so that when I go back to my own culture and comfort, I don't forget. Maybe then I'll work a little harder so others, like so many in India, have it a little easier.

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